RBTE 2016: Retailers must get ready for the introduction of polymer notes

The Bank of England will introduce new polymer bank notes from September this year and Victoria Cleland, chief cashier at the Bank of England, has said retailers must prepare for the change.

"We’ve been working with the cash industry to ensure a smooth transition and now we want to encourage retailers to join in the final stage of the story," said Cleland, speaking at last week's RBTE 2016.

The Bank decided to move to polymer notes in 2013 after a long period of consultation with industry experts and the public.

The new currency produces a number of key benefits. Polymer notes are harder to counterfeit, due to their high quality security features. The new currency also lasts at least two-and-half times longer than traditional paper notes.

"We want to make sure that people can get good quality notes in the right denomination they require," she said. "As retailers, you want your customers to be happy – and you can help us meet your objectives."

The Bank is working with retailers and cash manufacturers, helping organisations to ensure their machines are ready for the currency roll out. A full training programme will accompany the introduction of the notes.

"As retailers, you need to be ready – but we’re undertaking a lot of activities to ensure the industry is prepared," said Cleland. The Bank has hosted industry forums and is running working groups for key organisations.

She advised retailers to talk to suppliers in an attempt to understand what type of cash handling machinery might need to be updated. Cleland also said it will be crucial to train staff about how the new currency should be handled.

"There are a lot of alternative payment mechanisms around now but cash is still very much alive and kicking," she said. "We’re seeing year-on-year growth in the demand for cash of about 5% – and as that demand continues to increase, it’s important we modernise and ensure cash is fit for purpose."

Paper five-pound notes will be withdrawn from summer 2017 and will be followed by the introduction of polymer notes for other denominations.